Buffalo Soldiers

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Overview

Set on a luxuriously appointed and hopelessly corrupt Army base in Mannheim, Germany, where the soldiers prefer real-life race riots to mock combat, Robert O'Connor's viciously funny novel is conclusive proof that peace is hell and the U.S. Army is its ninth circle.

In that hell, Specialist Ray Elwood is the ultimate survivor: a high-stakes drug dealer, bureaucratic con artist, and shrewd collector of other people's secrets. Elwood is contemplating cleaning up his act, although ...

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Overview

Set on a luxuriously appointed and hopelessly corrupt Army base in Mannheim, Germany, where the soldiers prefer real-life race riots to mock combat, Robert O'Connor's viciously funny novel is conclusive proof that peace is hell and the U.S. Army is its ninth circle.

In that hell, Specialist Ray Elwood is the ultimate survivor: a high-stakes drug dealer, bureaucratic con artist, and shrewd collector of other people's secrets. Elwood is contemplating cleaning up his act, although doing so will require one last, epic heroin deal. But of course it's then that his life will careen totally out of control. With its impeccably rendered cast of sycophants, drug burn-outs, and uniformed sociopaths, Buffalo Soldiers give us a scabrous, haunting vision of a military idled by the New World Order—and at all-out war with itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An M-1 tank of a novel, fast and powerful and dangerous...way nasty and blindingly funny." —Jay McInerney

"This book may well find a place on the shelf with Joseph Heller's Catch-22.... It takes a fine novelist to tell such a sordid story so beautifully—and a brave one to hold out no hope for redemption but the jolting effect of a cold-eyed look at the truth." —The New York Times Book Review

"Buffalo Soldiers rips a story of survival from the fearsome realm of the modern Army's barracks, trenches, and gutters. Military jargon becomes in-you-face narrative, punctuated by extremes of horror and humor.... This book is about now, and its present-tense urgency never flags." —Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Once again, a first novelist inveigles the reader's empathy for a swaggering substance abuser by using direct address in the second person. But while Bright Lights, Big City jammed its hero's addiction up the nose of a greedy decade, this book can make no such zeitgeisty claims for its cocksure central character--Army Specialist Ray Elwood, based in present-day Germany. Elwood has brokered his genius for writing never-fail requisition memos into a profitable operation, specializing in skag and elaborate favor-banking. When a new sergeant threatens his system, Elwood tries for one final payday. Despite the annoying and intrusive familiarity of the formal device (``You want to get off, and two men in your squad need to shoot up. Here's how you do it . . . ''), the novel remains highly readable; O'Connor writes bitter, funny prose and creates bureaucratic snafus of the first order. Alternating scenes of Army idiocy and clinically realistic drug addiction are far more compelling than O'Connor's attempt to attribute his hero's bracing nihilism to his tragic past. Toward its end the book falters, as Elwood flirts with maudlin self-pity. But O'Connor misfires now and then only because he aims high; aided by his infectious gift for sneering and his sharp eye for institutionalized depravity, he marks most of his targets with tight clusters around the bull's-eye. ( Jan. )
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679742036
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1994
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage contemporaries ed
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 986,437
  • Product dimensions: 5.11 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert O'Connor was born in 1959, and received a B.A. in English/Writing Arts from the State University of New York at Oswego. He also has an M.A. in English from Syracuse University, where he studied under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. He currently teaches English and fiction writing at SUNY Oswego and lives in upstate New York with his wife, Donna, and family. Buffalo Soldiers is his first novel.
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2003

    Very good read...alot of truth!

    I read this book years ago when it first came out. I always remembered the story but not the title or author, until I saw a movie review about the movie based upon the book. What I liked most about it was that it is the only book I have ever read that comes close to reflecting my recollections of the 31 months I spent in Germany with the Army back in '71-'74. I didn't run drugs like this, but the drug culture was so evident there (combinations of Vietnam vets waiting to get out and young enlisted kids afraid we missed out on the Hippie 'revolution'), at least in my unit (no names, please!). But this isn't just about the drugs, the book brought back so many memories and feelings of my tour, with characters just like Elwood, Sgt. Lee, everyone trying to pass the time beating back the boredom, the insane antics of enlisted men and officers alike, deals going down, always looking for a way to 'get over'. Now that I know the title I am going to buy the book for my library and read it again and have my daughter read it (she is currently serving in Germany but doesn't believe my 'war' stories). You guys that served in Germany in the late '60s and early '70s definetly should read this book. It will take you back.

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